New endeavor is a piece of cake
November 13, 2009
She isn’t sure why, but if Andra Hammond doesn’t have anything else to do, she starts baking.
Her mother loved to cook, and Hammond once paid for a three-week tour of Russia by selling cinnamon rolls and bread to neighbors. About 13 years ago she started her own business in Alaska making birthday and wedding cakes. Last year she was able to take eight months off from her AutoCAD-designing day job to become a full-time cake maker.
Having moved to Kamas last summer to live near family, she started Sweet Perfections.
Hammond didn’t grow up wanting to become a baker. She says her mother always made the birthday cakes for her and her siblings, so when she had her own son 14 years ago, she naturally made cakes for him. Friends and neighbors were so impressed by her creativity and prowess they asked her to make some for their kids. A home-based business was born.
Lacking professional training of any kind, Hammond says she learned anything she didn’t know how to do from books and the Internet. She grew to love the challenge of trying something new and creating something that delighted the eyes and the mouth.
About eight years ago a relative wanted her to do a wedding cake something that requires a specialized set of equipment for decorating and presenting. But like all the cakes before, she learned how and came to enjoy it. Eventually she was making up to five cakes a week for weekend weddings every summer.
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"It takes a year or so for your name to get out and get going. That’s the hardest part," she said.
That’s because she loves the actual work.
During peak periods of demand, Hammond says she typically put in a full day doing AutoCAD, then three to four nights a week stayed up till 1 a.m. making cakes getting ready for the weekend. Especially difficult cakes required an additional 40 hours a week besides her day job.
Being able to bake full time is a blessing, she said.
"I can be with my daughter instead of spending $600 (a month) on daycare," she said. "It’s not work to me."
She guesses she’s made over 125 wedding cakes and close to 250 party cakes in the last 13 years. That’s a lot of variety but she said she loves the challenge of learning new things. Once she had to make a cake that looked like a capitol building, and another time she made a replica of the White House.
But whether it’s an elegant wedding cake or a replica of something, the most common question she hears is if it breaks her heart to see the work destroyed.
"No, it’s nice," she said. "I like building the cakes and seeing people get so excited about the way it looks, how pretty it is and how big it is."
She’s made a few cakes for charities in which a prize is hidden inside. Participants dive in and tear it apart in search of it. Hammond said she enjoys being part of the fun and a celebration.
Different families always have different tastes and traditions when it comes to cakes. Samoans like to provide a cake for every year old the bride is. That means Hammond once had to make 46 sheets to assemble into 23 frosted cakes for a 23-year-old bride. Then the family wanted it stacked into a sculpture with shining lights and a fountain in the middle. The end product was several feet tall.
Mixing, pouring, baking, and frosting 46 flat cakes in her home oven during a week was a lot of work, but Hammond says it never gets tedious.
Alaskans like to have fun with their wedding cakes, she said. Lovers of fishing asked her to frost the cake blue and make it look like a local river. Instead of a bride and groom on top, it was a woman fly fishing. She also had to package a cake to take on a puddle-jumping bush plane for a wedding in the middle of nowhere. It arrived safe and sound. She even made a vegan wedding cake using coconut and soy milk with tofu frosting.
"I’ve just always enjoyed baking. I’d bake for work and bring in a pie or cake just because I felt like baking. When I don’t have an order to work on, I’d bake for home. I just always feel the need to be baking," she said.
Orders can also be placed at
54 North Main Street in Kamas